OAKLAND (KPIX) — A measure on the ballot in Oakland would make it much harder for some landlords to evict tenants whenever they want without “just cause” restrictions.
It is called Measure Y and would amend the current law.
This past May, KPIX 5 exposed a loophole in the city’s housing laws that allows those kinds of evictions. Now some landlords are rushing to kick tenants out before the loophole closes.
Take Oliver Zerrudo, someone who just a few years ago was a social justice activist at UC Berkeley. Now, he’s a landlord, and he didn’t want to tell KPIX 5 about why he is evicting two single mothers and their children.
Terema Pettus is a one of the tenants that is getting the boot. “I am a professional woman sitting here, making a decent living,” she said. She’s a nurse, working full-time while raising three children and a grandson in the upstairs unit of a triplex in West Oakland. “Honestly, I don’t have a plan as I sit here today. That’s very scary,” she said.
Robin Jones, who lives downstairs, is also getting kicked out.
“I was shocked,” she said.
She’s raising a daughter with special needs on a paycheck not much above minimum wage.
“It is my job to make sure my daughter has a safe place to stay. She is worried that you know we are going to be sleeping in our car,” said Jones.
The two single moms have been paying their rent on time with no complaints or problems for years. But this year, the next door neighbors bought their building. The neighbors’ son Oliver Zerrudo moved in to unit number three, and immediately slapped his newly acquired tenants with a 60 day termination of tenancy notice.
“It doesn’t make sense. He already has an apartment, so why does he need both units?” said Jones.
Zerrudo may not need both their units for himself, but he can still legally evict any tenants living in them. That’s because of a little known exemption to Oakland’s just cause eviction law.
Unlike tenants of multi-unit apartments who can only be kicked out for certain specific “just cause” reasons, tenants of duplexes and triplexes can be evicted at the landlord’s discretion, without restrictions, as long as the owner lives in one of the units himself.
“They figured out this loophole with just cause, and they figured if they brought their son into the deal and moved him in the downstairs unit that would enable them to put us out, and that is exactly what happened,” said Pettus.
Earlier this year, KPIX 5 exposed how realtors selling triplexes in Oakland exploit the loophole, coaching would-be buyers on how to evict tenants for profit. You might remember Mark Hammond.
He was living in a duplex that was on the market at the time. “The real estate agents they sold it like that, as an opportunity. You can evict these people quite easily, just follow these steps,” said Hammond.
His building was quickly snapped up. And just as quickly he got his 60 day eviction notice, forcing him to pack up.
“They closed on a Friday, and on a Monday I got served in person. And that was kind of what fits in to what your investigation was about,” said Hammond.
KPIX 5’s investigation prompted Oakland’s city council to vote to put a measure on the November ballot that would close the so-called “duplex loophole.”
“Your investigative report showed what that problem is,” said Oakland City Councilmember Dan Kalb.
The main opponent of Measure Y is the East Bay Rental Housing Association, a group that represents landlords. They didn’t want to talk to KPIX 5 for this story.
Neither did the landlord in this case. Terema and Robin say they’ve had the same response: “There was no conversation, they refused to speak to us. If they had just come over and had a conversation with us, I would have not been opposed to paying a little more,” said Pettus.
Instead, both women have just two months to find another place to live.
“I never thought that I would be in this situation, but here I am. It’s real, it’s a crisis,” said Pettus.
“What do you do? You just keep your head up, and that is all you can do,” said Jones.
Hammond has found a new apartment, but he’s going to be paying twice as much in rent. At least he can afford it; some tenants can’t.